Trucking Groups Push for Tax Breaks in Next Round of COVID-19 Relief
Washington D.C. – Trucking groups are demanding various tax breaks for truckers as United States lawmakers begin negotiations on another round of relief stimulus.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed a $484 billion relief package which includes an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The bill won passage in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, and lawmakers are already turning their attention to yet another round of stimulus.
Industry groups want to make sure truckers get their share of the PPP loans, but they are also demanding relief directly targeted to professional drivers and trucking companies.
One way Congress can thank truckers for their service and dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic is by waiving the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT) for owner-operators, according to the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA).
“Congress must waive the 2020 payment of the HVUT to provide immediate tax relief to owner-operators, many of which are struggling to keep their businesses operational during the crisis and will continue to do so after,” OOIDA wrote to Congressional leaders earlier this month. “A straightforward way to help keep owner-operators in business would be a one-time waiver of the $550 fee most of our members pay per vehicle.”
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is calling for a suspension of the Federal excise tax, which adds 12 percent onto the purchase price of new trucks and trailers.
According to a Roll Call report this week, Bill Sullivan, ATA’s executive vice president of advocacy, said “We believe something like a holiday through 2021 of the Federal excise tax is a really good idea.”
Meanwhile, Congressional leaders have their own ideas on ways to benefit America’s frontline workers of which truckers are unquestionably a critical part.
Earlier this month, Senate Democrats proposed creating a “Heroes Fund” (HF) which would pay essential workers up to $25,000 in the form of a hazard bonus.
The HF would provide funds directly to eligible employer-partners so that they could distribute the premium payments.
Essentially, employers in industries engaged in “essential work” would apply to the HF for monies to be used to add line-item premium pay to employees’ or independent contractors’ paychecks.
The eligible employer would track these payments, provide payroll records demonstrating premium payments, and return any unspent funds to the Federal government.
President Donald Trump has not indicated if he supports the HF measure, but he has repeatedly championed a payroll tax holiday.
Mr. Trump argues exempting American workers from Federal income, Social Security, Medicare, and Federal unemployment taxes would put immediate money into the pockets of consumers to spur economic activity.
Additionally, businesses would not be required to pay its employees’ portion of the payroll tax, which could keep more workers off the rapidly swelling unemployment rolls and boost new hiring.
Prominent Republican Senate leaders have begun voicing support for the idea, especially for frontline workers and businesses.
Among them is Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) who recently Tweeted:
Our truck/delivery drivers, grocery/food workers, those caring for our loved ones & keeping us safe, these folks are on the front line of #COVID19 working for us. I say we give these essential workers a tax holiday.
They’re doing so much for us, it’s the least we can do for them.
What Happens Next?
Despite the myriad proposals, it is unclear which could garner enough support to pass the politically divided House and Senate.
Also at issue is the timing of the next phase of relief.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told the Politico on Tuesday he would not move forward on another large piece of legislation until Congress reconvenes, which is still scheduled for the week of May 4.
“We need to see how things are working, see what needs to be corrected, and I do think that the next time we pass a coronavirus rescue bill we need to have everyone here and everyone engaged,” he told the news outlet. “My view is, we just added another $500 billion to the national debt. Let’s see how things are working.”
Further, McConnell says he is getting pushback from a growing number of Republican members about the massive deficit spending.
“We can’t borrow enough money to solve the problem indefinitely,” he said.
Making matters more complicated is the fact states and cities are now lining up at the trough demanding relief from the Federal government.
Shelter-in-place policies have blown giant holes in state and local governments’ budgets.
Leader McConnell has indicated he could support allowing some of them to file for bankruptcy protection, while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vehemently opposes such an idea.